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“We are all striving to benefit the patients”: Bassem Saleh

As an experienced hemato-oncologist and pharmaceutical medicine consultant, with more than 13 years’ experience in drug development, Bassem Saleh has always thrived within strategic and challenging work environments. Now, just over 12 months into his role as CEO at TFS HealthScience, his next challenge is to grow the company as a focused and strategic business, move into other global regions and increase the company’s capability and coverage.

“When I joined TFS, the company had grown during its 20 years through acquisitions and focused on bringing the different affiliates together into a global structure and developing the brand,” Bassem explains.

“TFS was in the process of acquiring SCIderm, a small dermatology-focused CRO in Germany and I concentrated our efforts on building the Dermatology Center of Excellence. It became the first successful business unit at TFS and by 2018 it had grown several times its original size, building lasting partnerships with dermatology customers.”

At the end of 2018, with the Executive Committee, Bassem put forward a strategic plan for TFS to focus on two business areas – clinical development services and strategic resourcing. “When it comes to clinical development services, we decided to focus on small and mid-size biotechs,” he explains.

“Therapeutically, we decided to focus on Dermatology, Haematology and Oncology, Ophthalmology, Internal Medicine and Neuroscience. “To transform TFS into being the right partner for this customer segment, we needed to be very strong scientifically, therapeutically and operationally; therefore, we made the decision to not be a copy of a larger clinical research organisation, but to be very different in our approach, by being truly built for biotech.”

In addition to Bassem and his team’s success in this area, they’ve also had huge wins with their approach to strategic resourcing. “We had a lot of growth in local markets in the Nordics and Spain but we needed to expand this model within the rest of Europe and North America,” he reveals.

“With the support and investment from our owners, RATOS, we’ve grown the company in sales, complete services and geographic coverage, as well as in profitability, with the latter being incredibly important to help with any strategic future reinvestment plans.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a great example of the huge potential of Bassem’s industry. The record-breaking speed in developing vaccines is testimony to this. “It shows that we can unite to achieve a common goal of protecting people’s lives,” he says.

“This helped us to accelerate our plans, to utilise technology tools to work remotely internally, and with our customers and sites.” Bassem’s plans for the business are based around the outsourcing and insourcing of the clinical research market as a fast-growing sector, currently worth around €3.6 billion and projected to grow to €6.8 billion by 2025.

“We can accelerate this growth by further focusing on innovative research areas including gene therapy and rare disease, developing our FSP offering, expanding into the Asia–Pacific market and accelerating the use of technology all the way into virtual trials.’’ However, with such growth, comes a number of competitors for TFS.

“What differentiates us from the rest of the market is that our people are our asset. Who we hire, who we develop internally and the culture we develop,” Bassem says.

“We also have a different operational model compared to the larger CROs. We have stronger experience in local markets, we’re flexible, passionate about what we do, and we work closely and in a partnership model with the customer. It’s absolutely great to be here, supporting our customers with tailored solutions to make a difference for the patients. At the end of the day, we’re all striving to benefit patients in need. That’s the big driver for all of us at TFS.”

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